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Mountain Biking in Ireland

Chris downhill mountain biking in irelandNormally you’d need to be on the Adventure Travel Logue for this kind of thing.

In 2006 the number one reason tourists came to Scotland was for mountain biking holidays. A good friend of mine, Chris (pictured left there), competes on the UCI (International Cycling Union) World Cup Downhill circuit and is something of an authority on mountain biking in Ireland. Having seen engineBad’s posting on the bootsnall travel forum, I thought there might be an interesting post in it and sat down with Chris to find out about mountain biking in Ireland.

In Chris’ opinion, the mountain biking in Ireland is good, but a very different experience awaits the biker more accustomed to the massive resorts one can find in Canada or the states. Irish mountain biking is a niche activity with scattered enthusiasts everywhere, although the majority of trails and riders are in one of three distinct areas: Dublin-Wicklow, Cork-Kerry and Carlingford up past Belfast.

Mountain bikers in Ireland fall into two main groups, downhill and cross-country, but Irish riders are pretty cross-discipline and will be up for whatever sort of riding the terrain presents.

If you intend to visit Ireland on a mtb holiday, the first step is to start haunting the Irish mtb forum websites. Some top sites are:

irishdh.com, the National Irish mtb site.
epicmtb.com, a Dublin area site.
021racing.com, a Cork area site.
mtbrider.com, a Northern Irish site.
mtbireland.com, a cross-country mtb site.
cyclingireland.ie, the Irish Cycling Governing Body’s website.
irishcycling.com, a mainly road-based cycling site.

On these sites you can get a good idea of the scene and find out when and where the formal events and races will be held. Chris thinks that any serious biker should try to include a formal event in their Irish itinerary. He says that Irish riders are an enthusiastic, friendly group and the chances of making a connection at an event with a local biker who would be willing to share their knowledge of good trails or invite you along to informal events are good. Some riders would be out 3-4 times a week and are up for anyone who wants to come along, he says.

Coilte (pronounced “KWEEL-chuh”), the Irish Forestry Service, has set up 6 or 7 mountain biking centres around Ireland. Unfortunately, they do not list their mountain biking parks distinctly from their other recreation centres. You can browse the Coilte recreation sites by county here.

Ballyhoura, Ireland’s first purpose-built mountain biking park is opening summer 2007 in Limerick. While it’s set up as primarily a cross-country park, the word is that there will be enough downhill sections within the trails to make it a downhill rider’s destination as well.

Oughterard in County Galway is also set for the development of 17km of mountain biking trails sometime in the near future.